donata: (Reasonably priced - Politics)
[personal profile] donata
Where I left off last time, everything and everyone was being cold and miserable. However, neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit can stay us truly dedicated tourists from visiting three to four temples, monasteries, tombs and palaces per day and photographing the life out of them. (Actually, we stopped visiting, let alone photographing, temples after we were about halfway through with Vietnam. Axel and I agreed that you can show pictures of the same temple or altar over and over again to your loved ones back home – perhaps taken from a different angle – and claim that they're different ones. They all look the same anyway.)

Tomb


Pagoda
This is the view from the very first pagoda we went to see. Our drivers dropped us off at the foot of a hill, pointed us in the direction of the steps and told us to climb up there. And so we did.

Pagoda
One of the first in the very long series of totally unstaged tourist photos. The pagoda houses a figure of (presumably) some kind of saint…

Pagoda
…wearing a woolly hat.

Pagoda
Axel, epitomising supreme coolness.

Bai Dinh Temple
The Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh is the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam (according to Wiki as well as various travel guides). We visited it on the coldest and most miserable of days, and were impressed enough to spend more than two hours wandering around. Axel was pissed off at the SUV being parked right in front of the pagoda and preventing him from taking a good picture, but I like the symbolism, what with crass commercialism blocking the view of the spiritual retreat.

Bai Dinh Temple
Did I mention the fog? There was fog.

Bai Dinh Temple
It created a fantastic, otherworldly effect, though.

Bai Dinh Temple
Inside, literally hundreds and hundreds of these guys line the corridors.

Bai Dinh Temple
And the temple interior is fabulously pimped out.

Bai Dinh Temple
These things are huge. This picture was taken by Axel, who is six foot five tall, and look how much bigger the heron is. (Okay, admittedly the heron is standing on the back of a turtle, but still.)

Hue citadel
So we'd seen Vietnam's largest Buddhist temple complex. Now it's time for Vietnam's largest flag pole. The flag flies over the Imperial City in Hue.

Hue citadel
Inside, there's some serious furnishing going on.

Hue citadel
Ah, the palanquin – the most imperial of all means of transport.

Hue citadel
Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?

I think it's safe to say that, here, this particular line has long been crossed.

Hue citadel
These are the fabulous frocks that you can rent to take a picture. Admittedly, they're beautiful – not even the Pope himself has nicer ones (he's got fancier shoes than the Buddhists, though).

Hue citadel
But: nothing on earth is as splendid as these hats. Nothing.

I am amazed that no West coast gangsta rappers have emerged as yet who have found enlightenment and converted to Buddhism. The bling would be magnificent. Ol' Dirty Lama and Method Monk: Buddha Supastar

I mean, Snoop Dogg Lion, god bless him, stumbled across the Rasta philosophy. Surely, Buddhism is not much of a stretch?



Hue citadel
Anyway, back to Hue. Whilst Axel was photographing the art & culture inside, I took a picture of a peeing horse.

By the time Axel and I arrived in Hue, we had been getting rather wearied out by all those temples, and so we began – quite independently of each other – to toy around with our cameras' functionalities. Suddenly, sepia or black and white pictures started to appear – for no other reason than boredom.

Hue citadel
Also, sepia makes everything look kinda classy.

Hue citadel
But: the old Imperial City in Hue truly is a beautiful place to visit.

Hue citadel
And the fact that it rained worked in our favour, as it meant there weren't quite so many tourists there and we stood a chance of taking pictures that were devoid of human presence.

Hue citadel
This building housed the old Empress dowager's private hospital.

Hue citadel

Hue citadel
The dowager had her rooms quite pimped out, too.

Hue citadel
A phone box!

Hue citadel
Which contains a whole huge dragon. (Well, it is bigger on the inside.)

Hue citadel
Around that time, we started to regret not having a traditional peasant hat in which we could pose for photographs. Unfortunately, these things are inflexible and not very handy to carry around with you when travelling the whole country on boats, trains & busses. (Also, Axel was of the opinion that an umbrella hat would make much more sense, considering the weather conditions. Preferably one with a Hello Kitty motif.)

And anyway, as we know one of the fundamental truths of human existence (and, to a degree, human tragedy) is that people are not wearing enough hats:


Tomb
And so we had to take all those totally unstaged tourist pictures completely hatless.

Tomb

Tomb

Tomb
This is the Tomb of Khai Dinh – one of the six imperial tombs in the Hue region that tourists are very much encouraged to visit. (We visited three.)

It was on our second day in Hue, when we had decided to stop mucking about with all that half-hearted sight-seeing on foot and rented a car instead. It was a huge, state-of-the-art SUV with a driver and tinted windows – as was only right and proper, considering our age and status, said Axel, who very much regretted we didn't have a pennant handy which we could attach to the bonnet of our SUV, thus flying the German colours wherever we went. Ah well, next time.

Tomb
Inside, the tomb is as tasteful as it is modest.

Monastery
We also visited a Buddhist monastery. It is still the same day as in the pictures above, and the only reason it does not look grey and rainy was the fact that I had started to overexpose the photos in order to create the impression of dazzling sunshine.

Monastery
Lu Tze was here!

(I took this picture with the sole aim of saying that.)

Tomb
And here's the next tomb: This time, it's Emperor Tu Duc's. It's located on a huge area stretching over a pine forest and, among other things, features an altar to worship the emperor's wives and holds the accommodations of the emperor's concubines.

Tomb
Tomb
I rather hope his beard is made from human hair.

Monks
Buddhist monks, doing some retail therapy.

Jesus
Surprise!Jesus

Actually, Jesus is quite a popular fella down there.

Mekong
As are his mum.

Notre Dame
And, for some reason, St. Anthony.

For all Protestants and other heathens who don't know jack about saints and will burn in hell one of these days: St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. So if you lose something, you pray to St. Anthony who tenderly guides your step to where that object is. Growing up Polish-Catholic, I've known about this aspect of St. Anthony's job in the Catholic pantheon all my life. However, as is the case with all saints, his role has been successively expanded so that, today, his job description includes the patronage of the following (as Wiki informs me):

American Indians; animals; barrenness; Brazil; elderly people; faith in the Blessed Sacrament; fishermen; Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land; harvests; horses; lost articles; lower animals; mail; mariners; oppressed people; poor people; Portugal; pregnant women; seekers of lost articles; shipwrecks; starvation; sterility; swineherds; Tigua Indians; travel hostesses; travellers; watermen

Depending on the source, around 10 per cent of the population are Christian. It feels like it's more – or perhaps we travelled through several predominantly Christian regions.

Cat Tien
Christianity gives us the beautiful decorations which we kept encountering until the very end of our stay in Vietnam (February 1). What is great about this one is that it was 35 degrees Centigrade when we saw it.

Church
And we saw hundreds and hundreds of churches with a decidedly Catholic look about them.

Notre Dame
This, believe it or not, is the congregation of a Saturday night mass at the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame
This mass, in fact.

Notre Dame
In English, too! Well, that's a relief.

In some regions, the presence of Christianity is well-nigh uncanny. Every village has several churches, many of them adorned with seriously ugly figures of assorted saints and angels, and the church buildings themselves are brand new and very ugly. It reminded me forcefully of Poland - which, of course, is home to the world's tallest Jesus statue:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
But I really don't think the Vietnamese are far behind. In fact, when we entered Saigon, there was one unbelievably dreadful church with a huge gold-rimmed, larger-than-life Jesus whose golden halo was also a clock. I didn't manage to take a picture, sadly, and Google wasn't very forthcoming when I tried to find that abomination online.

Dalat

Billboard
In conclusion: I'm not sure whether they're trying to set a counterpoint to the omnipresence of big pimpin' Uncle Ho and his unholy Socialist vibes.

Date: 2013-02-20 09:08 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maria_s
"the heron is standing on the back of a turtle" - does that remind you of anything?

btw I kind of like the peeing horse. It's so random. Like the owner thought "Oh no, there's no horses allowed in the temple, well I'll just park it here". Why on earth would anyone bring a baby horse along? Do I want to know?

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